I read a couple of good pieces on modern conservatism and thought I’d share passages that caught my eye. I won’t pretend to be as informed as Fareed Zakaria and Andrew Sullivan, the authors of the pieces. From Fareed’s piece in Time…(emphasis mine)
Consider the debates over the economy. The Republican prescription is to cut taxes and slash government spending — then things will bounce back. Now, I would like to see lower rates in the context of tax simplification and reform, but what is the evidence that tax cuts are the best path to revive the U.S. economy? Taxes — federal and state combined — as a percentage of GDP are at their lowest level since 1950. The U.S. is among the lowest taxed of the big industrial economies. So the case that America is grinding to a halt because of high taxation is not based on facts but is simply a theoretical assertion. The rich countries that are in the best shape right now, with strong growth and low unemployment, are ones like Germany and Denmark, neither one characterized by low taxes.
So that whole “Taxed enough already” bullshit is just that, bullshit. It is part of the brainwashing that has occurred over the last 30 years, starting with Reagan. Reality has no place in these people’s thinking. More from Fareed…
In fact, right now any discussion of government involvement in the economy — even to build vital infrastructure — is impossible because it is a cardinal tenet of the new conservatism that such involvement is always and forever bad. Meanwhile, across the globe, the world’s fastest-growing economy, China, has managed to use government involvement to create growth and jobs for three decades. From Singapore to South Korea to Germany to Canada, evidence abounds that some strategic actions by the government can act as catalysts for free-market growth. (See a dozen Republicans who could be the next President.)
Of course, American history suggests that as well. In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the U.S. government made massive investments in science and technology, in state universities and in infant industries. It built infrastructure that was the envy of the rest of the world. Those investments triggered two generations of economic growth and put the U.S. on top of the world of technology and innovation.
There Fareed goes again, talking about reality. But with the new anti-intellectual Republican Party, facts are for chumps. Can you just imagine being a Democrat who is trying to help her constituents and having to deal with those jokers who don’t really care what the facts are, what history has shown us or what those brainy experts tell us.
Andrew Sullivan, who I have mixed feelings about, wrote in response to Fareed’s piece. If you want to hear some of his ideas that are way off, I recommend the Real Time with Bill Maher podcast from a few weeks ago, maybe a month now, where Andrew was on the panel. It’s good stuff if you have the time. Andrew’s piece on modern conservatives was very good, I recommend you read the whole thing. From Andrew…
On these terms, today’s GOP could not be less conservative. I’d insist it’s less conservative than Obama. It does not present reality-based reform for emergent problems. It simply reiterates dogma and ruthlessly polices dissent or debate.
So no tax increases are allowed, period. Why? Because they “kill jobs”. So why do we have record unemployment after a period of unprecedentedly low taxation? No answer. If lower taxes have led to stagnation, the answer must always be: lower taxes some more. Why not end them all together?
I wonder the same thing about taxes. How much lower can they go and what in the fuck will Republicans have to talk about when they are completely gone. They will have nothing. This next paragraph nails what the Republican Party is all about these days, Andrew Sullivan presents a great summary…
Back in the 1980s, conservatism was a thrilling empirical, reality-based challenge to overweening government power and omniscient liberal utopianism. Today, alas, it has become a victim of its own success, reliving past glories rather than tackling current problems. It is part secular dogma – no taxes, no debt, more war – and part religious dogma – no Muslims need apply; amend the federal constitution to keep gays in their place; no abortions even for rape and incest; more settlements on the West Bank to prepare for the End-Times. Although there were inklings back then – Stockman was right; Iran-Contra should have been a warning – they were still balanced by empiricism. Reagan raised taxes, withdrew from Lebanon, hated war, and tried to abolish all nuclear weapons on earth. The first Bush was an under-rated deficit-cutter and diplomat, a legacy doubly squandered by his son.
Now it’s Levin-land: either total freedom or complete slavery and a rhetorical war based entirely on that binary ideological spectrum. In other words, ideological performance art: brain-dead, unaware of history, uninterested in policy detail, bored by empiricism, motivated primarily by sophistry, Manicheanism, and factional hatred.
And finally, I’ll let Andrew bring us home with his final words from his piece.
In contrast, today’s unconservative “conservatism” is a movement held together by cultural resentment and xenophobic panic. Until it wrests free of this trap, it deserves its Palinesque fate: an ideology wrapped in anachronism, and laced with venom.